I most certainly am not Ann Taylor now, but I was post-college as I embarked on my career in advertising. You could say I climbed the corporate ladder on Ann Taylors’ shoulders, or rather, under her shoulders. It was, after all, the decade of the Shoulder Pad.
I had big dreams of making it in the corporate world. Probably has to do with having very uncorporate parents who were both teachers. I wanted the blazer, the briefcase and the business card: the corporate uniform that announced my arrival to their high-powered team, even if I did ride the bench as a secretary.
In the 80s, shoulder pads were the height (and width) of fashion. They magically slimmed waists, turned weak women strong and put power into suits. They also helped generate huge TV ratings as a central character of Dynasty. I loved them and Ann Taylor was one of their leading producers.
It was a short walk through the Embarcadero to 747 Front Street, where I passed the Ann Taylor windows every morning and night to and from my first job at the bottom rung of the ladder. Those mannequins were looking at me, waving me in to try on the clothes that would make me feel far more important than my job title belied.
Those Ann Taylor glass doors became my fashion glass ceiling, and I was determined to break through. Somehow, I was able to secure an Ann Taylor card, my very first and only charge card I would have for many years. And so it was that I became Ann Taylor, the woman of my dreams.
I can’t confirm whether my Ann Taylor shoulder-padded wardrobe had anything to do with my promotion from secretary to assistant media planner in a mere three months, or the fact that I did not get laid-off when we lost our biggest account a few months later. But I can confirm how professional and confident and great those clothes made me feel.
Clothes have that power. At least they do for me.
Oddly enough, shoulder pads are having a moment, thanks to Lady Gaga and Rihanna. A recent piece in the New York Times discusses their merits and how Lanvin and Balmain have used them to great effect.
So yes, I was Ann Taylor. She will always be part of my professional and fashion lore, and hold a special place in my heart.
Will I be sporting shoulder pads anytime soon? Many of my favorite designers are featuring them now, so the answer is yes. I just won’t be buying anything from Ann Taylor. She will forever remain in my past.